About this Polyamory Thing: Part 1

poly-by-shizojen-deviantart

Symbol by Shizo Jen (deviantart.com)

The idea of having the freedom to openly love more than one person, without all the hiding, lying, and risky behavior attached to “cheating”, appeals to more people than you know. Yet, regardless of our assumption that we are a free and evolving society, having “many loves”—openly and honestly—is still very much a taboo.

Well, maybe that’s changing. With popular TV shows playing around with the topic of polyamory and mainstream media outlets releasing article after article about swinging this, and open marriage that, it seems the lovestyle has gained some general acceptance.

But do people really know what it is? There still seems to be an awful lot of people out there who confuse polyamory with cheating, open relationships with swinging, polygamy with polyandry, and who assume polyamory is always only (or primarily) about sex.

Since the topic is piquing curiosity, and since it is one which elicits visceral reactions, from disgust to shock and awe- in other words, since the discussion is getting really good- I figured I’d jump in with my two cents. First, I got some definitions that might help the uninitiated establish a fundamental understanding. The first one is “Taboo”

Taboo: (adj) proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable; prohibited; forbidden; banned; can also describe something that is separated/set apart as sacred; forbidden for general use; sacrosanct. (from dictionary.com)

(Notice how the seemingly opposite “unacceptable” and “sacrosanct” are included in the definition of the same word? That’s not a mistake or an oxymoron.)

This is the information age, folks, where knowledge is more accessible than it has ever been. So, if you’re curious, enjoy, ask questions, do your own research, and jump into the discussion yourself. But please, make yourself look good and try to know what you’re talking about first. I’m learning everyday, and it’s fascinating!


RELATIONSHIP GOALS? #Compersion

I am so excited to be a part of Enchant TV’s fundraising campaign for Compersion, Season 2! Join in with your support.

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“The Enchant TV Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign is raising funds to complete another dynamic season of the provocative drama, Compersion. Compersion follows one couple’s journey from monogamy to polyamory, and takes an intimate look on how we see and value romantic partnerships. With an already successful Season 1, this inclusive-diverse production helmed by writer, director, and producer Jackie Stone is seeking funds to make another dynamic Season. Check out the first season of Compersion for free on YouTube at the link below.” -The Enchant TV

If you haven’t seen it, you just need to get with it. Like, comment, share, support the arts and evolving thought and all that jazz and throw a little dough their way so they can get Season 2 poppin! (There is a quite voracious and ever-expanding group of folks who are chomping at the bit for the next season, btw. Don’t let us down—some of us bite.)

Check out the series here:  (YouTube)  bit.ly/TheEnchantTV

Contribute here: (Indiegogo)  bit.ly/Compersion2

Engage and have fun here:

Facebook: facebook.com/enchanttv

Twitter: twitter.com/TheEnchantTV

Instagram: instagram.com/theenchanttv

Okay, ENOUGH fear.

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Who’s the fearful one here? “A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. Click photo for Huff Post Article.”

 

“I’m afraid.”

“I can’t keep calm.”

“I fear for my black son.”

“I fear for my black daughter.”

“I don’t know if my husband will make it home safe.”

“I don’t know if I will make it home safe.”

“The world has gone crazy!”

“I feel hopeless.”

These are some of the sentiments that I’ve observed all week since the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas 5. And I’m sick of it. I am sick of fear. All of it. Fear is what got us here, people!

Now, hold on, don’t misunderstand me. I have a great deal of compassion for those who feel this way. You are me, and I know your trials, because I experience them too. We’re in this together.

I have my own black son, daughter, husband, brother, mother, father, cousins, friends, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and my own black self that I cover in prayer daily with hopes that we will live to be our best, free from unwarranted, systemic harassment. I can’t tell you how many times in the last 72 hours I’ve stared at my 5-year-old daughter and had to shake off the thought of seeing her stunned in the back seat of our car after witnessing some vigilante cop lose his natural mind. Heaven forbid it.

I watch the man that I vowed to care for through the rest of my life come home every day, and I’m relieved that he didn’t encounter some crazed, poorly trained, afraid-of-his-own-shadow, Barney-Fife-acting police officer on his way from work.

But this season has me feeling empowered. Yes, empowered. Why? Because this is nothing new. According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No Temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man.” Oppression is ancient. Oppression is the rebar in our nation’s very foundation. We know these killings have been happening for centuries. But, we beat this before (the previous phase of it at least), and we can beat it again.

There is no reason for you to feel powerless unless you have chosen not to do your part. If you plan on twittling your thumbs, biting your nails, and simply watching from the stands while the winds of change blow around you, then yes, I guess you have a reason to fear. If you have no knowledge of your own power and the power of the creator within you, then yes, I can see why you are overwhelmed with fear. If you still don’t know that the Gods of our ancestors were themselves warriors, I get your fear. If you have forgotten that there really is no “they” and you’re currently blaming the mirror for reflecting this flawed world back to you, then I can see why you’re afraid.

See freedom comes in phases, and it’s cyclical, because unfortunately, humans get lazy. These trying times that ebb and flow through the eons are like labor pains, each one potentially getting us one step closer to birthing something better.

I respect your mourning, and I know that it is necessary. It is also necessary that you choose not to be paralyzed by your fear. Understand that the hopes, dreams, talents, strength, vitality, intelligence, and tenacity of all the dead are with us. In this sense, they never left us. Be quickened in the remembrance of them. And let the memory of them be your fuel as you move ahead in pursuit of freedom.

You are a powerful creation, and what you submit to in fear will only expand. So instead, let each one that has been snatched from us empower you to continue doing what you should have been doing long before and what you should continue doing long after this phase is over: develop your character, develop your community, and grow in love. Do that by any means necessary.

And if you still feel afraid, do it anyway.

 

 

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Opposites Attract

1.20.16 OppositesOpposites attract. I hear people say it all the time. I’ve said it myself. I can relate. Though my husband and I have some things in common, we also have quite a few fundamental characteristics that are opposite. Because of this, in many good ways we complement one another. It’s like a natural system of checks and balances within the family unit. Opposites indeed.

But are we really all that different? According to some spiritual thought derived from the Tantric and metaphysical traditions, like attracts like. In many ways, what shows up in our lives is an indication of ideas, beliefs, or expectations that we hold on some level. In essence, we attract what we are. And though you may sometimes seem very different from the one you love, the two of you very well may be two sides of the same coin.

I’m a big fan of Carl and Kenya Stevens, relationship coaches who believe that the purpose of relationships is growth. According to them, we begin to reap the rewards of our relationships when we understand that our “mates are our mirrors” and we do the work of developing our character as a result of the reflections we see. So, for example, if you attract a mate who has problems with honesty, you yourself may have some hidden difficulty with being honest with yourself or others. You may have a subconscious expectation of dishonesty from a partner. You may be a doormat who condones dishonesty on some level. Your ideas, beliefs, expectations act like energetic requests and the universe simply responds with your order. Like attracts like. Birds of a feather… you get it.

It’s in keeping with the idea that we truly are not separate from the world around us. Everything is connected, there are no (or there are at least very few) true dichotomies. Take Jesus and the Devil for instance. (I know that’s a loaded one, but take a walk with me for a minute just to test the logic.)

Christians believe that Jesus is the blessed sacrificial lamb, the one who has taken the blame for all of humanity’s sins and made it possible for us to be in good standing with God. This is “Good” – Side one of the coin.

However, Satan has also been the one upon whom humanity has symbolically heaped the blame for all of its “sins”. He is the horned one, the scapegoat. This is “Evil” – Side two…of the same coin. Opposites, but not really…

See, we have all this polarity in our lives, in our relationships, in our society. We love to cling to sides, favoring labels that pit one extreme against the other: gay v/s straight, religious v/s nonreligious, republican v/s democrat, rich v/s poor, victim v/s villain. Too often, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that there is a spectrum that exists in the middle of these binaries. Most importantly, we don’t realize that the shared life experiences of the gay and the straight, or the shared zeal of the religious and nonreligious, or the shared pain of the victim and the villain make them all two sides of the same coin. We’re really not all that separate. We’re really not all that different.

So which is it? Do opposites attract or does like attract like? Call me crazy but I think it’s both. Look into the mirror and find out why.

“You can’t hide from yourself. Everywhere you go, there you are.”

-Teddy Pendergrass

Is it unconditional love, “settling”, or submitting to reality?

DETACHSomeone once told me that while detachment can be a very useful survival tool in certain situations, it should not be a way of life. Yet I’m finding that there are some circumstances and people with whom I have had to adopt a lifetime strategy of detachment. Well maybe I’m not employing the strategy of detachment so much as I’m just learning to accept people as they come.

Sometimes you simply have to do away with unrealistic expectations in order to enjoy better relationships without the baggage of resentment or the negativity that comes from simply throwing people away. Clearing away the webs of expectations that we use to keep people within our reach can give us the clarity of vision to see (and be thankful for) the good that exists in them.

The first person that I ever learned to accept on his own terms was my dad. He was the kind of guy who wanted nothing more after a hard day’s work than to kick off his shoes, turn on the game, attach a beer to his hand, and have one of us turn out the lights on our way to our rooms from–which we would not bother him for the rest of the night. Sure there were those nights (which I’ll never forget) when we’d all sit around laughing at those crazy episodes of Cops or crack jokes during episodes of National Geographic safari or whatever.  But usually, he kept his distance.

I spent my entire childhood being friendly to him, wearing him down with good night hugs until he had no choice but to hug back, and learning to small talk with him. Small talk with my dad made me feel like I at least partially knew him.  It didn’t make him uncomfortable, because I never got too close.

As a teenager, I thought I could change the world, or at least MY world.  So I had a talk with him hoping that he would hear me out and start spending more “quality time” with my mom, my brother, and me.  I can still hear his response clearly after all those years.  It was a bit of a rant, but the ending went something like this:  “Fathers and daughters don’t need to be close, and I don’t need to be close to you.  Stop trying to turn me into something I’m not.”  In that moment I had a most potent experience of clarity, and I began to learn the art of detachment, which serves me well to this day.

resistance

STOP RESISTING

Eventually I came to learn that getting the love we want the way we want it from others is not always the point in life. As much as I needed my dad as a child—his approval, his time, his interest, his opinion of the guys I dated—he was just as much in need, or even more so. He needed something just as badly as we needed him. As lacking as he was in parenting skills, it seems he had been equally neglected and even more so.

As much as I wanted an affectionate, talkative dad who would wear a wedding ring, stay clean after rehab, and accompany my mom, my brother and me to the movies on weekends, I eventually made peace with the fact that that simply was not the hand that fate dealt to me.

Furthermore, it wasn’t about what I wanted for him or from him. It was about what each of us were supposed to learn in our individual journeys. He’s not beholden to my expectations. I don’t get to decide the timeline across which he should learn his lessons and finally “get it”. I am not fully aware of all the circumstances, memories, demons he has to fight through on the way to becoming the person he needs/wants to be.  And it’s no one’s fault.

Now our relationship has evolved into one where the small talk remains, but I can immediately interpret his tone, his insistence that I call weekly to check in, as proof enough of his love, of his pride in the people that my brother and I have become.  When he does say he loves me, it’s sincere.   When he calls, again, to make sure we’re coming to town for that visit we talked about, I don’t feel bad about the fact that the call only lasts five minutes.

I understand his personality and appreciate some of his tendencies more now.  I appreciate the artist in him–I only wish he would draw or paint more.  I admire the debater in him, the objective thinker who won’t simply give President Obama a pass on everything because he’s black.  I’ve come to agree often with the independent thinker who always so vehemently resisted religious dogma.  I understand his need to be free.

acceptance

This was a situation in which I had no choice but to adopt a strategy of detachment and acceptance. The slash and burn, just cut people off who make you uncomfortable sentiment that seems rampant these days just doesn’t work on a parent. I only got one dad.

And I’m learning that even in the relationships that I’ve chosen, there’s still room for detachment from certain expectations. I’ve learned to recognize those fair-weather friends and simply appreciate them for the fun and breaths of fresh air they provide when they’re around. Instead of resenting them for being themselves and entrusting them with things that they cannot handle, I keep them in the proper compartments.  And yes, I have absolutely no problem with compartmentalization.

For me, this thinking goes hand in hand with developing a more balanced and realistic perspective on relationships, one where we stop expecting other people to be our all-in-all (or to be what they do not have the ability to be), stand on our own feet, and learn to appreciate people for who they are.  Of course we need relationships, we need those relationships to be healthy, and we need to back off when they are not.  We can also learn to appreciate each unique individual for the small pieces of the puzzle that they bring to the table instead of expecting each person to be one completed 1000-piece puzzle that we can simply look at and admire.  We are each in a continual process of refinement.

So long as our interactions are not toxic, we don’t have to toss out the people who aren’t the “complete package”. And we don’t have to go without the relationships we want and need. We can simply seek out relationships with others who fill in the gaps. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!

What do you think of this way of dealing with relationships?  Some people may call it a form of settling or allowing others to get off “scot free” for doing “wrong”.  But is it really our responsibility to police the behavior and emotional/mental/spiritual development of others?  Aren’t our own individual plates already full enough?  Does trying to get another person to “do right” ever work, anyway?  Who gets to define what’s “right” for a particular individual for a particular point in time?

BEAUTYTUDES — to the infinitely magnificent flower

Poo-Poo on those who would never buy fresh flowers because they are too expensive and they only die days later!  (I used to say something like that myself.  No more!)

There’s nothing like having real flowers around.  I think they force us to live in the moment and to appreciate life while it’s here,

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and that things (or people) don’t have to be in our “possession” forever to be authentic, loving, full of goodness,

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or that even God is probably (at least) a little vain,

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that a little “showin up and showin out” is okay,

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that Beauty is a virtue…

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…that “happiness is a character trait which must be cultivated in order for us to be balanced.”  –Pretty Little Mess

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BEAUTYTUDES

 Random statements of utmost bliss

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Distance Lovin’ Part 6: Can a Sistah Get a White Man???

swirl

“Mmmmm!”

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting and corresponding with Kimberly Butler, owner of the Black Girl In Berlin blog.  Since December 2011, Kimberly has been sharing her experiences as a young, African American woman, living, dating, loving, and making a life for herself in Berlin, Germany.  Particularly, I found her observations about dating across racial and geographic borders to be pretty insightful.  If you haven’t already been there, or you haven’t been in a while, you should definitely go over to her place and see what she has to say about living and loving abroad!

While you’re there, check out a post that Kimberly recently shared.  It’s by yours truly and touches on this ever popular topic of black women dating white men.  Read the full entry and join in the conversation.  This “Chocolate/Vanilla Swirl” topic has plenty of angles:

“As an author whose work overlaps the Women’s Fiction category, I’m aware that the Interracial Romance genre has been a quite popular one for some time now, and interest is growing. If Barnes & Noble hadn’t changed its Fiction display so that you can no longer see Women’s Fiction, Afro American Fiction, Romance, etc., grouped separately, you’d more easily notice all those virile young black American women swirling with white/Latino men on many of those covers. (Not so many depictions of black women with, say, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, or African men—‘sup with that?) The idea has become quite public. And while I wouldn’t say that it’s mainstream, advertisers are all over the black girl white guy pair now in commercials and print ads.

“What bothers me is all the statistics and negative labels that complement this steady flow of images, and the scarcity mentality that insists that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a black woman to find a suitable mate. I’m one of those weird mind-over-matter types who believes in the idea that what you think and expect are what you get. And I’m not convinced that Black Women are in dire straits or that we should allow a barrage of that kind of information to make us believe that. Why the heck would I, of all people, want to buy into that…”

READ ENTIRE ENTRY ON BlackGirlInBerlin.com, and let us know what you think!

This is Erotica

My debut novel is not.

Don’t consider this a Spoiler Alert, but rather, targeted marketing.  As I’m preparing for the release of Pretty Little Mess: A Jane Luck Adventure, I see the need to clarify the genre to those who are becoming interested in my book.  This is difficult, because I’m a little averse to categories when it comes to writing which encompasses a spectrum of life experiences.  If I had to sort my book among many, I’d place it in Women’s Fiction.  Simply put, it is a belated coming of age story of a young woman who is attempting to navigate life, her sexuality, and relationships while grappling with diametrically opposed notions of faith and purity… and a couple of stalkers.

Now, I’m no Erykah Badu, but I do consider myself an artist, and like her, “I’m sensitive about my shit”.

So, when the first couple of Advanced Reading Copy reviews from friends came back, I was… shall I say…  miffed  that a primary complaint was the lack of a sex scene between Jane Luck (the heroine) and one of her many male acquaintances.

I can understand the confusion.  I’m a sex nerd who chats about tantra and the latest postings to Jujumamablog.com over lunch with friends.  I sell adult novelties on the side.  If I had an idol, it would be Grace Jones.  I’m a bit left of center on ideas about traditional relationships and marriage.  But that’s not what this story is about.

There’s a part in the second chapter, shortly after Jane settles into her cozy vacation bungalow in Jobson’s Cove, Bermuda, where she’s looking for a book to read.  She doesn’t want any of her usual preferred  books, which are heady and scientific.  She mentions that she’s in the mood for something more “sensual”.  Some may consider this a cue, a keyword foreshadowing some caution-to-the-wind vacation sex about to pop off in a page or two.  It is not.

Remember, the word “sensual” refers to anything that arouses any of the five senses.  Jane is a student of architecture.  She is an emotional kind of person who is heavily influenced by her physical environment and who appreciates the details.

When Jane stopped considering books, momentarily, to admire her surroundings (and to give the audience an invitation to vividly picture the setting), one of my previewers was a bit thrown off.   She wondered why Jane would spend so much time describing her surroundings.  She wanted to see where this “sensual” mood would lead, and hoped the destination was a bed somewhere with a man.  I noted my previewer’s sincere inquiry and flipped back to the second chapter to see what she meant.  “I can get verbose,” I said to myself, thinking that this may have been some passage that went on a little too long.  I didn’t want to be one of those authors who went on for pages or even chapters applying flowery language and philosophical observations to paint colors or drapes.  I took an honest look.

It was three paragraphs.  Three short paragraphs of setting.

kev hart

I wanted to say, “Damn, hold your drawls, doll.  My name ain’t Zane!”

When the only observation I got from another friend honed in on the lack of a sex scene in the book I knew it was time to explain, because I want this book to get into the right hands.

Pretty Little Mess is not an Erotica or Romance novel.  There is some nudity, but that’s much more about power than it is about sex.  And though Jane is a bit of an exhibitionist who sometimes wears snake-print pants and shoes with Lucite heels, she is still a woman with a very religious background who is brought to tears from guilt over simply masturbating.

So, I’m not trying to be “deep” or making some high road rant about “true art” v/s the instant gratification mentality.  I’m just trying to tell a story and stay true to the characters.  If I didn’t remain true to the personality of the main character, what kind of story would that be?  It would be like those otherwise awesome action movies that feel the need to plop a totally shallow, predictable and unnecessary love story in the middle of an escape from a hijacked plane.

where the hell

There’s a time and a place for letting all the sexy hang out, but it’s not in my debut novel.

fifty ways

Fifty Ways to Please Your Lover – Game

If you want the next Fifty Shades of Grey, get the next Fifty Shades of Grey.  Watch the movie.  Get the Instructional DVDs and the accompanying accessories (compliments of my side business).

If you want the crazy tale of a young woman having a head-on collision with her youthful sexuality, crumbling religious devotion, a burgeoning career, and a haunting family history, buy my book!

COVER !!! tmlgwriter_pretty-2

The Blame Game: Does Religion foster a sense of victimhood in life and relationships?

At times, I sit back and recall my days as a devout, nearly fundamentalist, Christian (I consciously de-converted 8 years ago), and I consider the effect that inherited thinking patterns and my own interpretations of scripture had on my experience. One glaring element of my worldview was a strong sense of victimhood, though I wouldn’t have called it that back then. I’ve since unpacked it and made a significant effort to rid myself of it.

This did not come only from my upbringing as a Christian, but also from being raised the black female child of an addict in subsidized housing. (There was a bit of poverty- and inferiority-consciousness coming from several angles.)

When you grow up in the kind of Holiness storefronts, Baptist chapels, and non-denominational Megachurches where parishioners now stand by with cell phones ready to capture the next shouting phenom for YouTube, ironically, you hear a lot of victim talk. You may be familiar with that cloud of struggle, negativity and complaints patched with a shallow “but-I-shall-overcome” refrain:

 -Life is chaos-

“Girl, these people at this job can’t stand to see me coming ‘cause they know I love Jesus. They tried to get me demoted. It’s always a press goin in there for this ‘lil bit ‘o money. My lights bout to get cut off…yeah, and my daughter no-good boyfriend got arrested again… But I’m yet holdin on.”

 -The devil is always doing something to me-

“I can’t leave the house yet. The devil is busy—he done hid my car keys!”

 -I’m unhappy and I must grin and bear it-

“This marriage must be my cross to bear. God only approves divorce in cases of adultery and abuse. As long as ‘he be pleased to dwell’, and our life isn’t in danger I can’t leave him. I’m still believing God will save him one day.”

 -It’s us against the world-

“We are God’s chosen few, and the world hates us for it!”

In this spiritual twilight zone, religion thrives on getting you to believe that there’s something wrong with you, that you need something outside yourself to make you “right”, that you are worthless without devotion to ground you and keep you connected to God. You are sinful and insignificant in and of yourself. And the devil’s ALWAYS after you.

You are one of very few spiritually awakened people in a dying world, a world which is always looking for a reason to persecute you. (How ironic that this thought pattern can be so humble and so arrogant at the same time.) You “die daily” with Christ, or whichever venerated prophet of your religion suffered greatly for the cause. You are a constant victim, a target, a living martyr, and martyrdom is noble. If you aren’t struggling, then you aren’t doing something right. If your life isn’t a struggle, a climb up the rough side of the mountain, that’s a sign that you’re in cahoots with Satan. After all if Satan saw you as any kind of threat, he’d be after you.

Struggle becomes a way of life and something to be proud of.

So it’s no wonder that this same mentality of acceptance of victimhood and passivity weaves its way into the romantic lives of those who possess it. Men and women hide behind their holy books to avoid taking initiative to improve their lives, to avoid making demands in their relationships.

Some put up with downright abuse, because “God hates divorce”.

Others refuse to speak up when they have unmet needs because they believe “love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “love your neighbor (wife, husband, child, etc.) instead of yourself. They live on the back burner…then secretly resent being overlooked.

Then there are those oddballs who have somehow come to the conclusion that God only approves of vanilla, missionary-style sex. (LOL!  I’ve actually found myself in this conversation.) Their passion wanes, their beds grow cold, they go months at a time without even a little spice. And they still don’t take action! Now, in eleven years of intense scriptural study, I never came across a biblical Kama Sutra. And I can tell you, if had to keep my legs shut, chomp at the bit and wait years for God to send me a mate, and I finally got the chance to walk across the threshold into natural bliss, I’d enjoy it in WHATEVER position I wanted! But I digress.

After unpacking this element of victimhood and passivity, I realized that I had to learn how to be happy. I had to take more initiative in my life, and that included taking steps toward a balanced mental state. “Do you even know how to be happy”, I asked myself? “Can you accept your current position, flaws included, as meaningful and good—no doom and gloom? Do you know how to acknowledge the difficulties of life without wallowing in them? Can you take the initiative to use the resources that you already have rather than constantly begging God for a fix, rather than struggling through everything and waiting for happiness in the sweet by-and-by?”

“Do you realize that positivity, peace of mind, beauty, fun and enjoyment, flirtation and the dancing of masculine and feminine energies, laughter—all those things are supposed to be the rule, not the exception? Goddammit, your name is Joy (not Job). Pick up your mat and walk! Get down off your cross and live.”

I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the process.